University campus USA Today NetworkTim Swarens, The Indianapolis Star Published 10:54 a.m. ET May 4, 2018
BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — As she trudged across the Indiana University campus, a backpack on her shoulder, Tebby Kaisara looked like just another student. But Kaisara wasn't a student. She was a slave.
Kaisara says a former IU graduate student coerced her into working as a domestic servant for 18 months. She cleaned the student's apartment, took care of the woman's children, did laundry, ran errands, cooked meals and bought groceries. All without pay.
And all while living in student housing on campus.
The United Nations' International Labour Organization estimates that about 25 million people a year are exploited through forced labor. They work in fields and factories, as nannies and as kitchen help, often under horrific conditions and for little or no pay.
In 2017, the Polaris Project, in an analysis of more than 32,000 human trafficking cases, identified 25 types of forced commercial exploitation in the United States. "Each type has unique strategies for recruiting and controlling victims, and concealing the crime," the report found.
Tebby Kaisara's ordeal as a modern-day slave in America began with a promise. She was living with a cousin in Gaborone, Botswana, when a neighbor made an incredible offer. If she would leave Botswana for the United States, Kaisara could work in a daycare center and attend school in St. Louis. For a desperate 19-year-old with few good options in her homeland, it sounded like a dream.
The neighbor even offered to find Kaisara a sponsor family, coach her on how to answer questions on the visa application and book the flights.
All Tebby had to do was to get on the plane.
It wasn't until she was above the Atlantic that Kaisara noticed something strange. The final destination on her ticket wasn't St. Louis. It was Indianapolis.
"I had never even heard of Indiana," Kaisara says. "“I started getting scared. What’s going on?”
The discrepancy didn't escape the notice of an immigration officer after Tebby's transatlantic flight arrived on Sept. 30, 2004 in Chicago. She was pulled aside and a call was placed to the phone number she had been given as her contact in America.
The person who answered had a ready explanation. The sponsor family was on vacation in Indianapolis, and Kaisara was to meet them there.
That was enough to get her past the immigration checkpoint, and on a flight to Indy. Before she left Botswana, Kaisara had been given a prepaid phone card, but she didn't know how to use the pay phones after she arrived at Indianapolis International Airport. Another passenger, noticing Tebby's distress, loaned her a cell phone and she called the contact number. The person who answered gave her a Bloomington address and the name of the person who would meet her there.
The warning signs were piling up, but Kaisara, confused and frightened in a strange place where she knew no one, pressed on. At the airport information desk, she found a shared ride to Bloomington. She remembers that the driver, observing her fear and uncertainty, walked her to the door and gave her a business card when they arrived at the campus apartments. Before he left, he told her to call 911 if anything went wrong.
Then Tebby, more than 8,000 miles from home, found herself alone.
After several minutes, Kaisara says, the woman who would become her tormentor arrived at the apartment. That evening, the student, also from Africa, introduced Tebby to her children, a boy and a girl. She also talked about Kaisara's plan to attend classes.
“She said I can take your documents to school so you can enroll," Kaisara says. "I got excited and I gave her my passport.”
But after the children went to bed, the conversation changed. "She took me outside and showed me where the children got on the bus. She said it was my job to get them ready to get on the bus each morning," Kaisara says. “At that point, I was confused about what was going on. I asked about going to school, and she said, 'I don’t have money to put you in school. You’re here to be my nanny'.”
One of the myths about human trafficking is that traffickers have to resort to physical force to keep their victims under control. But fear and manipulation can be more effective than locks and chains.
“She told me that first night, 'You don’t have to talk to anyone,' " Kaisara says. " 'All these white people are racists. They don’t like black people. You’ll see a lot of cops on the streets. They’ll ask for your documents, ask for a Social Security number, and if you don’t have it, they’ll arrest you and deport you'.”
Kaisara says the student told her she would be paid $100 a month and 500 Botswanan Pula (about $50 in U.S. currency) would be deposited in a bank account in Botswana.
But during 18 months of servitude, Kaisara says she was paid $100 only once, and she has not received any of the money supposedly set aside for her in Botswana.
As the months unfolded, Kaisara says she was subjected to a constant stream of manipulation and coercion. She often was denied food and medicine. She was at times locked in a room as punishment. The student wouldn't speak to her for weeks at a time, instead writing out instructions. At other times the phone would ring and she would be ordered to deliver lunch or a backpack to the student at the IU School of Education.
"She introduced me as her sister," Kaisara says. "One professor told me I was a good helper."
How could the exploitation of a young woman go unnoticed on a major university campus? The cover story — the student and Kaisara were sisters — helped fend off questions. Fears about what would happen if she spoke up kept Kaisara from seeking help. The tendency not to get involved in strangers' lives pushed students and others Kaisara encountered to look past the red flags.
“Indiana University takes such matters very seriously and works closely with law enforcement and appropriate federal agencies on dealing with these issues, which threaten the core values of the institution," Chuck Carney, the university's spokesperson, said in a written statement concerning Kaisara's case. "Federal law, state law and Indiana University policy all prohibit human trafficking. In this particular case, IU has no record of a report having been made by the alleged victim in this case against the graduate student who was on campus more than a decade ago.”
As the months unfolded, Kaisara rapidly lost weight. She says she weighed 140 pounds when she arrived in America. But she was down to 80 pounds before the exploitation ended, a fact she attributes to constant stress and the student's demand that Kaisara buy her own food. She was able to earn money by braiding hair in the community, but the work was piece-meal.
One incident in particular haunts Kaisara more than a decade later. In 2005, the student and her children moved to a larger apartment about two blocks away from their first home on campus. Kaisara says she was forced to use a hand cart to move the family's belongings and her own. But she asked the student to rent a truck to move the heavier pieces of furniture. The woman refused, but said that Kaisara could pay for the truck.
"She was angry with me because she said I was working too slow," Kaisara tells me as we stand on the second floor landing outside the first apartment. "We were carrying a sofa down the stairs when she shoved it and I fell. I was on the ground, bleeding when a Chinese student who saw what happened came over. He said you need to see a doctor. The woman was yelling at me and I told her I was bleeding and needed help. She said she didn't have money for a doctor. She gave me an old bandage to stop the bleeding."
During our initial two-hour interview, Allen Bell is listening as Kaisara shares her story. A regional coordinator with the Indiana Trafficking Victims Assistance Program, Bell has gotten to know Kaisara well — first as a trafficking survivor and now as a colleague.
“In training we point out the red flags," Bell says. "There were many moments when people were concerned about Tebby. Even her parents thought the offer was too good to be true. She was 80 pounds and was moving furniture across campus. To a ton of people she looked suspicious. That’s one of the big things we always talk about. If you suspect something, at least call.”
Kaisara now works part-time with the victims assistance program, speaking at training programs around the state about her experience as a labor trafficking survivor. Last month, she visited the IU Southeast campus in New Albany to talk about her ordeal in Bloomington. And she's scheduled to speak Wednesday in Indianapolis at the first statewide human trafficking training conference.
In 2006, her health deteriorating, Kaisara decided to stand up against her trafficker. With a painful cyst growing on her side, Kaisara again asked to see a doctor. The student again refused. But this time Tebby didn't back down.
“One night it was so painful that I knew I had to go to the doctor," Kaisara says. "I told her I had talked to a lawyer and 'They told me you are lying. Give me my passport or I am going to call the police'.”
At a hospital in Bloomington, passport in hand, Kaisara underwent surgery to remove the cyst. Two days later, she returned to the campus apartment. But the student, apparently frightened by Kaisara's threat to call the police, told her she couldn't stay.
Kaisara was suddenly free. But she also was frightened. Where would she live? How would she survive? Would she be deported?
It's here that Lisa Stieglitz enters the story. Stieglitz, who owned a wig shop in Bloomington at the time, had for months observed Kaisara with concern.
"She came to my salon to buy hair with this scary lady who wouldn't let her talk," Stieglitz tells me. "Red flags would go up all the time, but I wasn't able to ask her questions. I didn't know her name, but I always prayed for that skinny little girl."
But on the day in March 2006 when she won back her freedom, Kaisara arrived at the shop alone. And promptly burst into tears.
She also shared her story.
“At that point, I felt so relieved. I had waited so long to tell someone," Kaisara says. “I didn’t think about justice. I didn’t think about the money she owed me. I just wanted to be free.”
Stieglitz decided on the spot to help. Her son had an apartment he was trying to sublet; she gave Kaisara the key. She also contacted friends, who put together donations and helped Kaisara meet new hair-braiding customers.
One other critical contact was made: A phone call to the FBI prompted a swift response. Federal agents interviewed Kaisara and showed her photos of suspected Botswanan traffickers operating at the time in the U.S.
The investigation, however, ultimately did not lead to charges. The graduate student has since returned to Africa. Others suspected of operating the trafficking ring left the country as well.
Today, Kaisara works at a hospital in Bloomington and holds down three other part-time jobs. She also takes classes in radiology at Ivy Tech community college. Exodus Refugee helped her obtain a special visa for human trafficking victims. Since then, she's earned a green card and is working toward U.S. citizenship.
But memories of her past exploitation, including childhood sexual abuse, still keep her awake at night. And prompt her to work long hours.
“I cannot sleep from the trauma," she says. "It’s going to be a lifetime thing. I want to sleep but I cannot sleep. I chose not to sit there and have my mind go to unnecessary things."
I first heard about Kaisara during an interview with Kate Kimmer, the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault's anti-trafficking coordinator. Kimmer has assisted many labor and sex trafficking survivors over the years, but Tebby has stood out, not only because of what she suffered but also because of who she is today.
"Tebby is one of those people who is genuinely awe-inspiring. She is a daily reminder of why I do what I do," Kimmer says. "She's a deeply empowering person who is filled with a compassion and grace that I don't fully understand."
On a warm spring day, with redbuds and dogwoods in bloom, Kaisara and I walk through the apartment complex where for 18 months she was kept as a slave on campus. She points out routine things — a laundry room door, a parking lot, a tree — that trigger memories of abuse, isolation and fear.
But Tebby Kaisara says she refuses to live in that past. She is excited about her future in America.
“I feel like I have created so much happiness in my life instead of the negative parts. It has helped me heal," she says. “Bad things happen. We don’t have to live our lives for the past. I take everything I have experienced in life and it’s taught me a lot of lessons."
5. "son of guinea's 1st president kept girl enslaved in texas" In response to Reply # 0
thats why im basically panafricanist and still say, its important to remember the slave trade ended due to eliminating the buyer/the demand, not the seller/supply. even today look at the middlemen herding ppl into libya and saudi arabia //
A girl brought to Texas from a West African village as a child spent 16 years working in forced servitude for a well-off Southlake couple who abused her, kept her from attending school and didn't once celebrate her birthday, authorities say.
Mohamed Toure and Denise Florence Cros-Toure of Southlake, both 57, each face a federal charge of forced labor. They were arrested at their home Wednesday and made an initial court appearance Thursday.
A lawyer for the couple, Scott H. Palmer, said in a statement Friday that the criminal complaint against his clients "is riddled with salacious allegations, fabrications and lies."
Authorities began investigating in 2016 after the victim fled the home on Briarridge Drive with two bags of her belongings.
According to the criminal complaint, the girl was living in a mud hut in a village in Guinea when she went to work for Cros-Toure's parents in a city. In January 2000, she was taken to an airport and put on a flight — alone — to the United States.
The girl's passport and visa said she was 5 at the time (although other documents indicate she may have been as old as 13), and she did not speak English. What she remembers most from the trip is "a kind flight attendant who gave her cookies and a toy," according to court documents.
She was quickly put to work by the couple after she arrived at the home on Briarridge, she told authorities. After the five Toure children left for school in the morning she "would start cleaning, making the beds, vacuuming, cooking and gardening," according to the complaint, and would work until the children went to bed.
Neighbors who saw the girl walking the children to school, mowing the lawn and painting the home assumed Toure and Cros-Toure had a nanny, the document says.
Carroll ISD, which include the couple's home, had no record of the girl attending school in the district. Neighbors said she wasn't allowed to play with other children, and she told investigators she wasn't given the same opportunities as the family's children — learning to ride a bike, use a computer, swim, drive or even care for her hair.
For years, she said, she had to sleep on the floor in one of the children's bedrooms, and she was given old clothes to wear. A Southlake police officer who encountered her in a park in 2002 described her appearance as unkempt.
She never had a birthday party, she said, and was unsure of her own age.
The victim also told investigators that the couple abused her both physically and emotionally. Slapping gave way to being hit with a belt and later an electrical cord, the complaint says, and on one occasion Cros-Toure ripped an earring out of her left ear. A federal agent noted scars on the girl's arms and ear.
The girl said the couple would yell at her frequently, calling her "a little nothing," a slave and — in a conversation that was recorded — a whore. Cros-Toure sometimes kicked her out of the home as punishment, she told investigators, and she would sleep in nearby Bicentennial Park.
In August 2016, several former neighbors helped the victim flee the home with some of her belongings, photographic proof of her time there and her travel documents, which were long expired. She was taken to a YMCA, which contacted authorities.
Police said that Toure and Cros-Toure never reported the girl missing.
Palmer, the couple's lawyer, said that the victim was always treated like a member of the family — each of whom had chores and responsibilities. She was given clothes, food, a bed, spending money and Christmas gifts, he said, had social media accounts and was in contact with her family in Guinea.
The attorney disputed that the girl was 5 when she came to the U.S., and he said witness accounts and photographs would "reveal the truth that she was never enslaved, forced to do anything against her will, never beaten, never threatened." As evidence, he offered pictures Friday from an Instagram account purported to be hers.
"We look forward to amassing a mountain of evidence to refute the Government's portrayal of our clients," Palmer said in a written statement, "and look forward to revealing the motivation of this woman to lie, betray, and attempt to destroy the family that took her in at the request of her father for a better life in the United States."
Toure and Cros-Toure, both natives of Guinea, were granted asylum in the U.S. in 2000, according to court documents.
Toure is the son of former Guinean President Ahmed Sekou Toure, and Cros-Toure's father was the nation's secretary of state.
Investigators found little to no work history for the couple, who appeared to receive income from "significant" overseas deposits. Their home, on a leafy street in well-to-do Southlake, was appraised by Tarrant County at nearly $600,000 this year.
In the mid-1990s, the couple's names and photographs occasionally appeared in The Dallas Morning News' philanthropy coverage for their support of causes including Fair Park's African American Museum.
Next Cros-Toure once operated Out of Africa, an exotic-furnishings store in Dallas' Preston Center. A 1994 article in The News about the store's opening noted that she and business partner Jan Showers had important connections.
"Invoking the names of Cros-Toure's father and father-in-law opened doors and cut through bureaucratic red tape, allowing the two Texas women access to artworks and domestic goods not easily found in Dallas," the article read.
Toure and Cros-Toure each face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted. A detention hearing is set for Monday.
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